Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Believed to Be Seen

Published in Blog. Tags: .

Believed to Be Seen is a writing project I published in February of 2013, when I was twenty-nine. At that time, I surmised its aim to be that of documenting “my evolving experience with the American addiction treatment industry, and how I finally found my way out of its maze.” The obvious angst of that statement might speak to where I was at in my own recovery at the time: I was frustrated; I was searching for an identity; I was rejecting my past; and I was rejecting “the system.” In essence, I used it as a means of researching my way sober.

When writing of my experience, at that time, the extent of my exposure with Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps was reading The Big Book and reaching the “second step” before parting ways with my short lived “sponsor.” I still hold many of the positions explained in Believed to Be Seen (I still struggle with the “disease concept of alcoholism,” self-admission of being an “alcoholic,” and a relationship with a “higher power,” just to name a few) but have now “worked” the steps all the way through. This time I did so with a new sponsor, who has since become like a brother to me. I’ve also paid that service forward by walking someone else through the Twelve Steps as they were taught to me. I recognized, and wrote of, the value of working with others to get sober at the time of writing the book, but still neglected to take advantage of that, myself. In doing so I missed out on some of the potential for real connection which lies at the heart of A.A.’s “Program.”

Certainly, after its release, I became confused about what the unforeseen consequences might be related to sharing “my story” online in that way. I was fearful about whether it would show up on an employer’s background check, or what others might think of me if it showed up in a Google search for my name. So I deleted it and removed it (where I could) from the online outlets where it’d been published. Around that same time, though largely unrelated to that decision, came a move to drink again. I was sober for nearly two years at that point in time and what followed was a year of mayhem which nearly led to my end.

In hindsight, my intention behind the book feels flawed. I used it as a means of defending why it was I thought I didn’t need anyone’s help getting sober rather than what it could have been: An outreached hand extended to others who also need help. I regret that decision, but recognize that’s what I needed to do at the time to get where I’m at. And in this space I hope there’s value in sharing it now. I wrote my way into sobriety only follow that up by nearly drinking myself to death. Looking back, I feel like that happened because I tried to recover on my own. I couldn’t. I still can’t. And if anyone who reads this is struggling with that same challenge, please reach out.